When the hockey history books look back on Holy Cross’ 5-4 overtime victory over Bentley, it likely won’t matter if the game was ugly or pretty or not. A back-and-forth affair, it won’t stand out for a hat trick on one side or a gritty, never-say-die attitude on the other. It will, instead, stand out as two points that impacted the 2017 Atlantic Hockey postseason race.
“It feels good (to get the win),” Crusaders coach David Berard said. “It was one of those games that was loose both ways and it was good to come home with the last goal. It’s playoff hockey, and that’s the way our league is. Everyone’s tight and we fortunately got the bounce.”
Early on, the bounce wasn’t in Holy Cross’ corner. The Falcons opened up flying high on home ice, scoring two early goals in the game’s first 10 minutes. The first came on a power play, when Drew Callin’s crossing pass found Max French’s stick for an easy deflection past goalie Paul Berrafato less than three minutes into the game. Up 1-0, Bentley made it a deuce when Jonathan Desbiens’ shot bounced off Berrafato right to Ryner Gorowksy, who promptly stuffed it home.
“I thought we came out and executed our plan,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “Our plan was to use our speed and our ability, get pucks behind the defenders and get on the forecheck. We had a great start to the game and got the two early goals.”
After that, though, the bounce changed. Squarely in command at the halfway point of the first, Bentley watched as Holy Cross seized momentum with three goals, and the Crusaders took a 3-2 lead into the break. It was a shocking turn of events springing from two goals within 20 seconds with under two minutes to play in the period. Of the three Crusader goals, two came from Mike Barrett and two came off of turnovers.
“I didn’t like the way we came out in the first period,” Berard said. “But we responded and scored three goals to get a lead.”
Holy Cross held that lead through much of the second before Tyler Deresky rattled the water bottle with a top-shelf highlight-reel goal to tie the game 3-3 going into the break. Less than a minute into the third, however, Barrett completed a hat trick when he punched a puck past goaltender Aidan Pelino in a scrum in front of the Bentley net.
In overtime, the last goal went to the side cloaked in purple. Pelino stepped forward to make a save on a shot by Scott Pooley, but when the puck bounced off of his body, he flopped forward to cover it up. Landing by the faceoff circle, he failed to come up with the puck, and Johnny Coughlin tapped in the game-winner with under two minutes remaining, giving a much needed two points to the Crusaders.
“When we scored the fourth goal, I told our guys that it wasn’t done because the game was going to be a rock fight,” Berard said. “Bentley responded, and we fortunately got that bounce in overtime.”
The win gave Holy Cross two huge points going into Saturday’s last full day of Atlantic Hockey games. Following Mercyhurst’s loss to Canisius earlier in the week, the Crusaders broke a tie with the Lakers to take a two-point lead in the race for the final playoff bye. One point behind Robert Morris, they remain in the hunt for home ice in the quarterfinals.
Having split with the Colonials earlier this year, Holy Cross cannot pass RMU for conference wins, meaning they need a win on Saturday to combine with a Niagara sweep of the Colonials on both Saturday and Sunday.
“We control our own destiny, and if we win or tie, we can get a bye,” Berard said. “If we win, we have a chance at fourth place but if we tie, we solidify fifth place. But it’s more that we’ve been talking to our team that we need to play our best hockey into the playoffs. We made some mistakes tonight, and hopefully tomorrow we can have a better effort because we’re going to need a better effort to win.”
Though the loss eliminated Bentley from bye contention, they still locked up home ice for the first round following Sacred Heart’s defeat at Air Force. The Falcons can still finish anywhere from sixth to eighth depending on the outcome of the Mercyhurst-RIT game in Rochester.
The two teams wrap up their weekend set on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Atlantic Hockey roundup
No. 17 Air Force Sacred Heart
Jordan Himley scored twice and Erik Baskin chipped in two assists as No. 17 Air Force rolled to a 5-0 win over Sacred Heart. Shane Starrett made 21 saves in the win, which moved Air Force one point behind first-place Canisius in Atlantic Hockey. Air Force can clinch first in Atlantic Hockey with a win over Sacred Heart Saturday night.